Legion playoffs: Rowan 19, Randolph 3

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By Mike London
ASHEBORO ó Randolph County left-hander Steven Davis enjoyed an outstanding freshman season at UNC Wilmington, logging five wins and three saves.
Davis beat Wake Forest and made a strong start that enabled the Seahawks to knock off Clemson on the road, but it appears that no one, not even a Division I southpaw, can slow down Rowan County’s offense.
Rowan knocked out Davis in the third inning and buried Randolph 19-3 in front of a mostly stunned crowd at Asheboro’s McCrary Park. Trey Holmes, Jon Crucitti and Preston Troutman clubbed home runs, and Billy Veal was dominant on the mound as Rowan seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
“We’re playing our best ball of the season right now,” said Holmes, who added two doubles and two singles for a five-hit night. “We couldn’t have picked a better time.”
Rowan will send Forrest Buchanan (7-0) to the mound tonight at Newman Park in search of a sweep and a state tournament berth. Randolph (19-15) is expected to counter with Asheboro High standout Colton Baughman, who nearly shut down eventual state champion Lake Norman in the second round of this year’s 3A high school playoffs. Baughman, who signed with Catawba, was instrumental in Randolph’s victory against Rowan in the 2008 Area III championship series. He saved Game 4, then won Game 5 with eight sharp innings. Rowan County and Catawba coach Jim Gantt describes Baughman as a very similar pitcher to Mooresville Legion ace Nick Lomascolo.
On Wednesday night, Rowan showed patience and power while Randolph, the defending state champion, was its own worst enemy. Five Rowan runners trotted home from third on passed balls or wild pitches, and Rowan (24-5) added another gift run on a two-out error.
Davis is usually tough on lefty hitters. Lefty-swinging brothers Noah Holmes and Trey Holmes, who have family roots in Randolph County, combined for a 5-for-5 effort against him.
Rowan’s seven-run third inning made it 10-1 and ended any suspense. Rowan sent 13 batters to the plate in the frame. The key at-bat was Davis’ two-out walk to Troutman, the No. 9 hitter, that prolonged the inning and turned over the lineup.
Trey Holmes, who batted .500 in the second-round series with Stanly, made Davis pay with a two-run double. After Russell Michalec was hit by a pitch and Zach Smith drew a walk, Crucitti stroked a two-run single.
“Two-out hits and a good bullpen ó that’s how you get to heaven,” Gantt said.
In the fourth, Trey Holmes and Crucitti blasted opposite-field homers. Troutman hit a solo bomb in the fifth.
While Davis walked six, Veal (4-0) cruised. He got a pitch up to Preston Asbill, who socked a solo homer for Randolph in the second, but other than that he was in command.
“Other than that one homer, Billy kept everything down,” Gantt said. “His stuff was really good tonight.”
Veal struck out 10, the high this season for a Rowan pitcher. The right-hander, who mixes a fastball, slider, curve and changeup, fanned nine in 51/3 innings against Concord.
He was at his best in the third. Randolph put two on with none out, but Veal struck out the 3-4-5 hitters.
“The slider was my out pitch,” Veal said. “I had faith in my catcher (Matt Miller) to block the ones in the dirt, and it was real easy to pitch with run support like I had.”
Veal was lifted after five frames with the huge lead. Parker Gobbel and Nick Smith closed the deal quietly.
“We just kept extending innings with good at-bats and kept momentum on our side,” Crucitti said. “We worked deep into their bullpen again, and those guys have got to be getting tired. Still, we know it’s not over. We have to expect Randolph to play at their best in Game 3.”